Depending on how you choose to count things and which albums you consider as “full”, it has been either seven or six years since Yautja‘s last “full” album and by Jove, I’ve missed them. There are a lot of reasons to love Yautja, like their absolutely uncompromising tone, their complete and total dedication to aggression, and the unhinged feeling that they always leave everything on the court. But those things can be found in other bands even if not in a lot of them, at least not to the same extent as in Yautja’s case. But what really makes Yautja unique, what made me miss them as much as I did, is their incomparable ability to somehow be slow and agile at the same time.
Many have tried, over the last decade or so, to blend together the styles of sludge, death metal, and grindcore together. That blend is so hard to pull off because it requires several completely different skillsets. First, to execute death metal and grindcore well, you need to be more than fast. You need to be loose, spry, quick, clever, light-footed. But to execute sludge (and the tinges of hardcore that Yautja also bring to the table) you need to be ponderous, hefty, single-minded, laser-focused. Most bands choose one or the other to prioritize and that’s how you get death metal bands with a sludge sound (usually expressed through guitar tones and vocals) or sludge bands with a death metal tinge (usually expressed through more intricate compositions and faster drums). But Yautja have this singular ability to bring both of the sounds together, to move between tempos and approaches with a quicksilver smoothness that leaves your head spinning in all the right ways.
Maybe the best example of this on the album is “Tethered”. Listen to the main riff; the drums are moving hyper fast, channeling the grindcore sound of a million fills and cymbals. But closer to the middle of the track they also have this punk/hardcore lilt to them which works super well with the guitars. The guitars execute a similar dance; the main riff has this cool, death metal “sweep” to it, and can be very intricate at times (especially right after the track’s halfway point, where everything becomes very death metal). But it can also swing a mighty punch, reacting to the change in the drums with its a slowed down, hefty version of the riff. It all comes together into something that’s both fast and slow at the same time, dancing around you quickly but also pummeling you at the same time.
In other places, the contrast is even larger. Check out the track right after “Tethered”, the aptly named “Clock Cleaner”. It kicks off with this massive bass line, driving all of the rest of the instrumentation forward with its sludgy, boisterous step. The vocals are also way heavier, slower, and more pronounced, taking on the same sludge affectations, repressing the death/grind side of things for now. But then you head on over to just past the three minute mark and everything shifts again. Now, the bass is playing circles around the guitars with a much faster and more intricate riff. The weight has been exchanged for speed and the rest of the instruments follow suit, with the drums moving over to cymbals and lighter fills to give the vocals the space they need to introduce the killer breakdown at the end of the track. And boy, is it killer (and feeds right into the absurdly good riff at the beginning of “Catastrophic” and then its grindcore explosion)
The end result of all of this is an album that’s heavy like only Yautja can make something heavy. It’s wild without being scattered, ruthless without overstaying its welcome, impactful without wearing you out. It’s another iteration from one of the best goddamn bands out there today and you’d be doing yourself a major disservice if you didn’t check it out.
Yautja’s The Lurch will be released May 21st. You can pre-order it from the band’s Bandcamp above.